A BLOG ON HD RADIO BY WCLV'S PRESIDENT
WCLV 104.9 has been broadcasting in HD (digital radio) since Tuesday, August 14th, 2003. WCLV was the second station in the Cleveland area after WNWV to begin transmitting the HD signal. It was also the third classical music station in the nation to do so, the others being KDFC, San Francisco and WUSF, Tampa.
INSPITE OF THE SOMEWHAT NEGATIVE COMMENTARY ABOUT HD IN THIS ARTICLE, WCLV HAS LOCATED A SILVER LINING IN THE DARK CLOUD, IN PARMA, IN THE AREAS NEAR THE FM AND TV ANTENNA FARMS, RECEPTION HAS BEEN DIFFICULT BECAUSE OF THE RF FROM THE MANY TRANSMITTERS. HOWEVER, A NUMBER OF WCLV LISTENERS HAVE FOUND THAT AN HD RADIO WITH A RABBIT EAR ANTENNA BRINGS IN WCLV 104.9 LOUD AND CLEAR WITHOUT INTERFERENCE. WE'RE TOLD THAT THE RADIO SHACK HD RADIO WORKS WELL.
WCLV has been quiet about it because for a long time there weren't any HD radios available. Well, that has changed. Boston Acoustics has its HD Receptor table model radio available on the Internet, and Radio Shack has its own brand of HD radio available.
The advantage of HD originally was that the sound was to be so much better than analog. There is a difference, but with a qualty analog signal, such as WCLV's, most listeners would not find this worth the expense of an HD radio. There is virtually no difference with heavily processed rock programming. At least you can't tell any difference.
The current excitement about HD centers around the ability to broadcast additional signals with different programs, the so-called HD2 and HD3 streams. Many stations, including WCLV, are planning for new programming on these channels. A number of Cleveland stations have done so, primarily presenting revamped versions of rock music. However, WCLV is taking it slowly, as we and others in the industry have found a flaw. When HD was announced, we were told that the HD coverage would be equal to the analog coverage. Unfortunately, it just isn't true. HD coverage is about 60% of the analog signal. This is very disappointing. And, our experiments show that an HD radio needs an antenna - a rabbit ear TV antenna or a dipole, or even a rooftop
array. In the car, the normal mounted antenna suffices.
Recently, I decided to get an after-market HD/XM radio for my new Chrysler Town and Country.
As Chrysler is an invester in Sirius satellite radio, the car came equipped the Sirius service.
However, because WCLV has some programs, including Bill Rudman's Footlight Parade,
on XM, and that XM, in general, does better programming, I looked for a radio that received
XM and HD. I found such, a JVC HDR1 (with XM) radio in the Crutchfield catalog and ordered it.
It arrived promptly, and I took it to my dealer for installation. The technicians, in spite of
numerous calls to Crutchfield, were unable to get power to the unit. I sent it back, along
with a letter to the president of Crutchfield saying that athough their people said that the unit
could be installed in a Town and Country, it appeared not to be the case. He quickly answered,
saying he was assigning one of his assistants to the case. This gentlemen said he would return
the radio with a new power harness and an extensive set of instructions. When the box arrived,
I returned to the dealer, who then spent three days installing the radio. But it did work. However,
I'm not sure the average consumer would want to go through the trouble I experienced.
While the XM functions well, I am more
interested in the HD reception. Our discovery
that the HD signal for all stations is about
60% of the analog was confirmed. No matter
which station, you have to be within 15 to
25 miles of a given transmitter to receive
solid HD transmission. In the case of
WCLV, our HD signal is very good west
of the Cuyahoga and in a number of places
east of downtown, especially in the Heights
area. There IS a qualty difference in the sound
of the HD signal over the analog, although the
dropping in and out of the digtal signal
produces an odd echo effect. Interestingly, WTAM (AM) is broadcasting an HD signal, but
it cuts in and out quite a bit, causing some nine second repeats in the baseball broadcasts.
(Their digital signal is on a nine second delay. WCLV's is not.)
So, while HD has promise, WCLV is taking a wait-and-see stance, especially on
establishing an HD2 program channel. Your comments at email@example.com are welcome.